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We see the characters first in two boxes at an opera house. The five singers share a box and stare at the stage. But Konstanze’s eye is caught by a man in a box opposite: Bassa Selim (actor Tobias Moretti), who stares steadily at her and broods in voiceover at having lost her, his inspiration.
Richard Strauss may be most closely associated with the soprano voice but
this recording of a selection of the composer’s lieder by baritone Thomas
Hampson is a welcome reminder that the rapt lyricism of Strauss’s settings
can be rendered with equal beauty and character by the low male voice.
Bernarda Fink’s recording of Gustav Mahler’s Lieder is an important new release that includes outstanding performances of the composer’s well-known songs, along with compelling readings of some less-familiar ones.
Das Rheingold launches what is perhaps the single most ambitious project in opera, Richard Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen.
This live performance of Laurent Pelly’s Glyndebourne staging of
Humperdinck’s affectionately regarded fairy tale opera, was recorded at
Glyndebourne Opera House in July and August 2010, and the handsomely produced
disc set — the discs are presented in a hard-backed, glossy-leaved book and
supplemented by numerous production photographs and an informative article by
Julian Johnson — is certainly stylish and unquestionably recommendable.
Recorded at a live performance in 2012, this CD brings together an eclectic
selection of turn-of-the-century orchestral songs and affirms the extraordinary
versatility, musicianship and technical accomplishment of mezzo-soprano
Once I was: Songs by Ricky Ian Gordon features an assortment of
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friend of the composer since their work on his opera Morning Star at
the Lyric Opera of Chicago.
Alfredo Kraus, one of the most astute artists in operatic history in terms of careful management of technique and vocal resources, once said in an interview that ‘you have to make a choice when you start to sing and decide whether you want to service the music, and be at the top of your art, or if you want to be a very popular tenor.’
In generations past, an important singer’s first recording of Italian arias would almost invariably have included the music of Verdi.
With celebrations of the Verdi Bicentennial in full swing, there have been
many grumblings about the precarious state of Verdi singing in the world’s
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In the thirty-five years immediately following its American première at the Metropolitan Opera in 1914, Italo Montemezzi’s ‘Tragic Poem in Three Acts’ L’amore dei tre re was performed in New York on sixty-six occasions.
Few operas inspire the kind of competing affection and controversy that have surrounded Mozart’s Così fan tutte almost since its first performance in Vienna in 1790.
During his career in film, opera, and operetta, Richard Tauber (1891 - 1948) enjoyed the sort of global fame that eludes all but the tiniest handful of ‘serious’ singers today.
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It would be condescending and perhaps even offensive to suggest that singing
traditional Spirituals is a rite a passage for artists of color, but the musical heritage of the United States has been greatly enriched by the performances and recordings of Spirituals by important artists such as Paul Robeson, Marian Anderson, Leontyne Price, Martina Arroyo, Shirley Verrett, Grace Bumbry, Jessye Norman, Barbara Hendricks, Florence Quivar, Kathleen Battle, Harolyn Blackwell, and Denyce Graves.
As a companion to their excellent Great Wagner Singers boxed set
compiled and released in celebration of the Wagner Bicentennial, Deutsche
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There could be no greater gift to the Wagnerian celebrating the Master’s
Bicentennial than this compilation from Deutsche Grammophon, aptly entitled
Great Wagner Singers.
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Since its first performance at the Teatro Santi Giovanni e Paolo during Venice’s 1643 Carnevale, Monteverdi’s L’Incoronazione di Poppea has been one of the most important milestones in the genesis of modern opera despite its 250 years of unmerited obscurity.
Though 2013 is the bicentennial of the births of Giuseppe Verdi and Richard Wagner, the releases of Cecilia Bartoli’s recording of Bellini’s Norma on DECCA, a new studio recording of Donizetti’s Caterina Cornaro from Opera Rara, and this première recording of Saverio Mercadante’s forgotten I due Figaro, suggest that this is the start of a summer of bel canto.
15 Sep 2005
MONTSALVATGE: Integral de canto
It is unfortunate that audiences tend to pigeonhole Xavier Montsalvatge (1912-2002) as a one-work composer. There is no doubt, however, that the popularity of his Canciones negras has overshadowed the rest of his output.
Aware of this situation, shortly before his death and with a light dose of acrimony, he declared in an interview:
The weight of these compositions has followed me all my life, and I have not yet solved it. I don’t want to boast, but the songs are popular from Nepal to South Africa, which has the inconvenience that they overshadow the rest of my works.
[Carlos del Amo, “Xavier Montsalvatge,” EFE News Services (December 2, 1999).]
And indeed, they do. Recorded, completely, by Victoria de los Angeles, Montserrat Caballé, Marilyn Horne, Teresa Berganza and, partially, by Bartoli and Gheorghiu, these songs are among the most popular of the twentieth-century repertoire and—given its irresistible melodic charm—a favorite encore of all singers. Needless to say, all this results in a general lack of familiarity with his other, equally appealing, compositions. The fact is that Montsalvatge’s music has been premiered by internationally renown performers such as Nicanor Zabaleta, Alicia de Larrocha, Rostropovich, Rampal, Szeryng and many others. In addition, it has also been performed at the BBC Proms and at Lincoln Center (by the New York Philharmonic). Besides Columna, several international labels, including ASV and Marco Polo, have issued many recordings entirely dedicated to his music as well. Therefore, Montsalvatge’s so-called “problem” is not that he is unknown or that his works are poorly disseminated, but rather that his music is unevenly circulated and appreciated. To be sure, these two CDs will palliate this problem.
In recent times, Columna Música, the small, independent Barcelona label, has issued an incredible amount of Spanish music, including an on-going series dedicated to the issuance of the complete works of Montsalvatge. This latest installment includes the composer’s whole production for voice and piano. Volume I includes the composer’s songs cycles Canciones para niños, Canciones negras, and Quatre rimes breus de Josep Carner. Volume II focuses on single, self-standing songs as well as opera arias arranged for voice and piano. For the first time, therefore, listeners can appreciate the full spectrum of Montsalvatge’s vocal output and not only one of its segments. The songs, as a matter of fact, cover chronologically all his career as a composer since the first song dates from 1933 and the last was written in 2001.
Montsalvatge’s musical language overtly departs from the Germanic tradition prevalent in earlier Catalan composers (Pedrell and Gerhard among others). Instead, it shows a penchant for the irony, playfulness, and popular appeal of Les Six, as well as the rhythmic experimentation and formal clarity of Stravinsky. Although his language evolved and passed through different phases (including a serialist one), he is best known for his so-called “West Indian” style (early critics called it antillanismo), which was inspired by the sounds of the Spanish Caribbean. This period includes compositions such as Tres divertimenti (1941), Cuarteto indiano (1952), and of course the popular Cinco canciones negras (1945, orchestrated in 1949). On these two CDs the antillanismo is only audible in the celebrated Canciones negras. The rest of the songs, generally speaking, use relatively simple, appealing melodic lines accompanied by astringent, modern harmonies. A predilection for the world of children is also prevalent in most of his works (as is the case in Frederic Mompou’s oeuvre, another eminent Catalan composer), but especially in his Canciones para niños (with texts by García Lorca), also included here.
Some of the performers on these CDs seem to own, in the best sense of the word, Xavier Montsalvatge’s music. American-born, Barcelona educated pianist Mac MacClure was a friend of the composer and he worked closely with him in many projects, including the recording of his complete works. His accompaniment is subtle, expressive, and clean, as well as sensitive to the singers’ quirks. Soprano Rosa Mateu was the composer’s protégé and had the privilege of premiering many of his late vocal compositions. She brings to these recordings an intimate knowledge of the music and its world, as well as her remarkable vocal qualities. Marisa Martins is one of the rising stars in Barcelona’s vocal scene. Born in Argentina and educated in Barcelona, she has already sang opera at the venerable Gran Teatre del Liceu in her adoptive city. These recordings show her great talent for the song repertoire, too, and she brings to them an exact diction and a deep understanding of the text. All things considered, one only wishes that the popularity of the greatly admired versions of Cinco canciones negras by Victoria de los Ángeles et al. do not overshadow these performances the way the compositions themselves “followed” and became a “weight” for the composer. God forbid.
Antoni Pizà, Director
Foundation for Iberian Music, CUNY Graduate Center